Last year, 192 people died in work zones on Texas highways. That's an average of one person killed every other day. It's more than any other state and an increase of 51 deaths over 2001.
That means there are few places in the state more dangerous than I-20 in northern Smith County. "It is a dangerous place to work with all the traffic," says TXDOT Deputy District Engineer, Glenn Green. Texas is currently improving roads in more than a thousand different spots. Each one could be the site of another deadly crash. Green says there are two main reasons for the high number of wrecks. "Excessive speed through our work zones and also inattention to our traffic control devices and signs."
Tuesday, crews were relocating some of those traffic control bariers just feet away from cars and trucks going 50 to 60 miles an hour. One of the most dangerous parts of the work zone is before the work ever begins. Cars are told to move from two lanes down to one. At 70 miles an hour, some are more successful at it than others.
"Where the merge is, that's one of the areas where we're finding we're having more accidents," says Green. "Once they get down to one lane and proceed through the work area the reduced speed we don't see the same number of accidents."
Eventually, the new roads will be safer than the ones they are replacing. But in the mean time, your safety in work zones is mostly up to you.
California had the second highest number of work zone fatalities in 2002 with 119. Georgia had 118. Florida was fourth with 87.